Do you want to get rid of the nets from our creeks, rivers and bays?
  |  First Published: February 2009

What do you say to the question, “Would you like to see the removal of all nets from your local creeks, rivers and bays?”

My experience is that there are very few who would say no, apart of course from commercial netters and their immediate family. Some uninformed people who probably don’t fish recreationally will express concerns about the impact that might have on their ability to buy fresh fish, as they swallow the propaganda being peddled by the DPI&F and commercial fishers.

Those of us who have looked into this fable, know that the overwhelming majority of fresh fish being purchased these days by Queenslanders is imported or farmed. Most consumers are swayed by price over where the fish comes from anyway. So the main reason we really don’t see much genuine local produce on sale is based on economics, not preference. But that’s a topic for another day.

So, we agree that we want to get rid of the nets from our inshore fishery, YES!

Is it going to happen?


The long awaited inshore “management plan” as they keep trying to call it, is a total farce and will only succeed in further restricting what you and I can catch, ensuring that the commercial netters have even better access to what’s left of this rapidly declining resource. “The Plan” fails to place any new catch restrictions on the netters in regards to all the key recreational species and has no mechanism whatsoever for reducing numbers of operators or effective fishing effort in the commercial net fishery.

The government has been asked directly whether it intends to implement any sort of licence and effort buyout in the net fishery. For a change, they have come back with an honest and unequivocal answer – No.

At least that can’t be misunderstood and we know exactly where we stand on that critical issue – screwed!

What are our options and our fishing future then?

I guess we can all sit back, throw our collective hands in the air, swear at the government, then go about our daily business as usual and wear the inevitable consequences of seeing our inshore fishery decimated before our eyes within the next five years or so. Does it really matter if our kids and grandkids never have the opportunity we’ve had of the thrill of catching a feed of fish in the local estuary or beach? Well, it does to me!

Or, we can continue to wave our fists and demand we get a fair share of the inshore fishery like we’ve been doing for the past 20 years. That works well doesn’t it – NOT!

Or we can finally get so pissed off that we actually decide to take things into our own hands and stand up and be counted by taking over the agenda and putting our money where our mouth is.

What am I babbling on about?

I’m talking about buying the bloody net licences out our-selves.

And if you are a glass half empty type of person who thinks we couldn’t possibly do that, I’ve got good news for you – we most certainly can!

Apparently there are around 750,000 of us in this great state who love our fishing. If we assume that only half that number would contribute, we have the potential to raise a very significant sum of money that will buyout a fair whack of net licences in one hit. For a very modest investment, you the individual fisher stand to recover many times the value of your investment by way of a greatly enhanced inshore fishery with more and bigger fish for you to catch. Now what’s not to like about that?

Have I got your attention?

The next obvious question is, “How do we go about gathering this money from recreational anglers?”

Here’s the rub. While this is a great state in so many ways, we are often a bit redneck and behind the times in our thinking. I hate to say it, but our southern cousins in New South Wales and yes, even Victoria, are way ahead of us in terms of removing nets from their inshore fisheries, and it isn’t being funded by their governments from consolidated revenue, it’s being largely funded by those states’ recreational anglers.

Brace yourselves for this and please resist the initial urge to swear loudly, shake your head and stop reading this piece, because I need you to bear with me and hear me out.

Both these states have introduced a recreational fishing licence that covers both salt and fresh waters. Now take a couple of deep breaths and stay with me.

I hate taxes like everyone else and if I thought for one minute what I’m about to propose was nothing more than another tax impost on recreational fishers that sees more of our hard earned cash disappear into the black hole, then I wouldn’t be wasting my time sitting here writing this – I’d be out fishing.

The only way I would entertain a Recreational Fishing Licence (RFL) in this state is if it’s brought in exactly in line with the strict controls and constraints that guarantee all the funds collected are used to directly benefit recreational anglers. There can be no compromise or negotiation. It’s our way, or no way!

The fundamental non-negotiable principles that would need to be enshrined in a Qld RFL would be:

• Every cent collected goes into a special Trust Fund;

• This Trust Fund is administered by a Board comprising a majority of members from the recreational fishing sector;

• The Board determines the funding priorities the money from the fund is spent on after extensive consultation with rank and file fishers;

• A cap is placed on the maximum percentage of the funds collected to be spent on administering the process (Vic has a 10% cap while NSW has 15% cap);

• A majority of funds collected be allocated to commercial netting buyout until such time as the fishers of Queensland are satisfied that their fishery is sustainable;

• The value of a licence buyout is dependent on the catch history of that licence (this is to deter speculators from artificially inflating the price of licences to make a killing from the buyback);

• Annual RFL cost is not linked to the CPI, but reviewed periodically by the Board after extensive consultation with rank and file fishers.

Of course it won’t be quite that simple, but those are the key protection mechanisms that need to be built into it from day one if it is to achieve what we need it to do.

Looking at other places that already have a RFL, the average annual cost seems to be between about $20-$30. My view is that I’d like to see it set towards the higher end initially, as $30 is less than a carton of beer and a very small price to pay when you think about the major tangible benefits in the form of more and bigger fish we will quickly see.

I grudgingly pay $25 per year now just to drive on the local beaches and I get absolutely nothing in return for my outlay. When you think about it in that light, $30 for a RFL would be a great investment, as each one of us will get a personal benefit and the future of our inshore fishery will be protected for generations to come.

The bottom line is, we recreational fishers need to come together on this critical issue and tell whatever government is elected this year, that we want a RFL introduced on our terms – nothing less is acceptable.

Are you with me?

Think it through. I don’t believe there is any other option.

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